Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds

The Las Gallinas (The Chickens) Wildlife Ponds are a great place for wildlife photography. Last year a pair of Long Eared Owls made it their home.

We can meet for lunch at the:
Redwood Cafe
175 Paul Dr 
San Rafael, CA 94903

I will be leaving the Raleys Shopping Center (In front of Round Table Pizza) at 6:30am if you want to carpool. This facility is flat, dirt trails with areas to sit and rest. Meet in the main parking area.
This Meetup will be cancelled if it rains.

LGVSD Pond Poster

The Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds are also holding tanks for treated liquid waste. You'll have better luck selling this hike to your friends or family by describing it as an easy stroll along a marsh and past ponds teeming with birds, rather than explaining that you'll be walking on service roads that wind past pools of effluent near a sewage treatment plant. It's not as grim as the it sounds. Not only is there no nasty smell at Las Gallinas (at least there wasn't on my visit), but the sanitary district has created a warm and welcoming environment for recreation and education.

Northern Pintails Wintering at Las Galinas


 The sewage treatment facility was assembled in 1985. Waste is initially processed at the plant across the street from the trailhead, then the treated sewage is either stored in the adjacent ponds, recycled as irrigation water,or discharged into Miller Creek, which feeds into San Pablo Bay. By reclaiming waste water, drinking water is conserved, and a nice side benefit is the easement permitting use of 3 1/2 miles of trails on the sanitary district's lands.
 The flat trails are perfect for jogging, or for easy family strolls. There are picnic tables a short distance from a trailhead, nicely landscaped grounds, and one of the most beautiful public toilets in the bay area. Since there is no fishing permitted, the ponds retain a sense of peace and quiet sometimes lacking around local lakes, ponds, and shorelines.
 The logical hike is an out-and-back semi-loop, combining a walk along the marsh to the edge of the property (near Hamilton Field), with a circuit of a wildlife pond. You can extend a hike to the wildlife ponds by beginning back at McInnis Park and walking either on the road, on a trail bordering the golf course (passing an old Nike missile site), or a levee path at the eastern edge of the park.
The section below is something you may want to do on your own.

Start at the parking lot and take the brief connector path to the east. Walk north, initially on pavement, across a bridge where Miller Creek makes its way toward the bay. On the other side of the bridge, the trail splits just before an information signboard. Continue straight.
  The wide gravel road (used by district vehicles) skirts the primary wildlife pond, where you might see ducks, geese, and white pelicans. Don't be surprised if you glimpse movement just beneath the water's surface; huge fish (carp, I think) swim in this pond. Signs warn that the water contains waste effluent. Yellow star thistle, dock, and fennel line the trail, with cattails closer to the water.  At 0.24 mile, a road veers left, heading back around the pond. Continue straight.
 There are nice views west to Big Rock Ridge, south to China Camp, and even further south to Mount Tam. Traffic noise from US 101 is just barely audible, but fades with every step. At 0.53 and 0.66 mile, you'll pass restricted roads heading off to the left. Continue straight.
 The trail leaves the ponds behind, and passes a bare field. Some shrubby willows and a few out of place pines line the path on the left, while coyote brush gives way to pickleweed on the right, marsh side of the trail. Curving north, the trail offers views to duck blinds on San Pablo Bay, and all the way to Mount Diablo on a clear day. At 1.07 miles, marked by a small sign, the public trail turns sharply right (the road to the left is restricted). Turn right.
  Blackberry brambles sprawl along the left side of the trail. Further west, hayfields are irrigated with wastewater recycled at the sewage treatment plant near the trailhead. The flat trail bends left and continues north. Sharp-eyed hikers should be able to make out the buildings of the former Hamilton Air Force Base to the northwest. Back to the southwest, the blue-roofed Marin Civic Center is visible. Along the trail, you might see salt marsh dodder, a plant that in summer resembles dried clumps of cut grass. At 2.13 miles, the public trail ends at an unsigned junction. A restricted road heads west, and a small path continues north,to a ramshackle structure that my topographical software claims is an old rescue tower. Retrace your steps back to a previously encountered junction at 3.99 miles, with the penultimate wildlife pond road, marked with a small blue "public trail" sign. Turn right.
  You'll have the opportunity to observe birds in the ponds on both sides of the trail, and to savor more pretty views of Mount Tam, San Pedro Mountain, and Big Rock Ridge. On my hike, something had caught one of those huge fish and picked half of it clean just off the trail. At 4.17 miles, a restricted road bears right at a signed junction. Turn left, as directed by the public trail sign.
  Following the contour of the pond, the trail sweeps to the left, passes the picnic area, and reaches a previously encountered junction at 4.60 miles. On a warm July afternoon a king snake crossed the trail in front of me along this stretch. Turn right and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 4.62 miles

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  • Ken B.

    Excellent location for taking photos and walking

    April 20, 2014

  • Roberta B.

    Had a great time. Found a few birds to photograph. Will be posting a few of my photos later today. Looked for you guys at the Redwood Cafe, but it was closed.

    April 20, 2014

  • Terry S.

    Great spot. I'll be back to the Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds.

    April 19, 2014

  • Jim P.

    Dennis, great Meetup. Thanks a lot for putting this together.

    April 19, 2014

  • euclid

    Wow that's to o bad

    April 19, 2014

  • Dennis A.

    Great place for photographers, but not much today as far as wildlife.

    April 19, 2014

  • Sue A.

    I won't be able to make it. Duty calls.....

    April 18, 2014

  • Linda O

    Sorry, family from out of town going to be arriving for the weekend so will have to miss out on this meetup. Everyone have fun and I'll watch for the posted pics!

    April 18, 2014

  • Terry S.

    Sorry you are not able to go with us.

    April 18, 2014

  • Terry S.

    We'll miss seeing you.

    April 18, 2014

    • euclid

      There is always the next one

      1 · April 18, 2014

  • euclid

    Just found out I have to cover someone at work so Gail and I won't be there bummer :(

    1 · April 18, 2014

  • Lori S.

    I must have signed up before I made my reservation to Florida! I am with my 1 week old grandbaby and my 2 year old (that's him in my profile pic) It sounds like a cool outing I will try to go when I get back!

    April 18, 2014

  • Teresa

    Just returned from out of state, & not sure about meeting @ 8; so just in case, I'll let someone take
    my spot, & may try to arrive a bit later on the trails.

    April 17, 2014

  • Terry S.

    Sorry to hear about your leg. Take care of yourself.

    April 17, 2014

  • Veronica

    I need to cancel. I have a leg injury.

    1 · April 17, 2014

  • Susan

    I am still going!

    1 · March 29, 2014

  • Terry S.

    Can't wait till the 19th!
    See you soon.

    March 28, 2014

  • Ken B.

    Curious if it's all-systems-go for tomorrow? I would hate to drive an hour only to learn the event was cancelled.

    March 28, 2014

    • Dennis A.

      I rescheduled the meetup for April 19th

      2 · March 28, 2014

  • Mary H

    Dennis thanks for the offer of carpooling but I have decided not to go due to the uncertainty of the weather.

    March 28, 2014

  • Mary H

    Would like to carpool. I'm from Rancho Cordova but could meet someone anywhere along the 80 corridor.

    March 23, 2014

    • Julie A.

      Dennis, do you have room for me too?

      March 25, 2014

    • Mary H

      Dennis, thanks for the offer of the carpool but I have decided not to go due to the uncertainty of the weather.

      March 28, 2014

  • RT

    what city Raleys Shopping Center in?

    March 28, 2014

  • Kerry D.

    Weatherman says rain for Saturday a.m. You are cancelling the meetup if it rains, correct?

    March 26, 2014

    • Dennis A.

      Yes I will call it on Friday night

      1 · March 26, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Look forward to meeting everyone.

    March 26, 2014

  • Veronica

    I have to work. Have fun!

    March 24, 2014

  • Tina W.

    I can't make it, I have to go to a photography seminar at San Leandro. Looking forward to seeing the pictures taking by all of you.

    March 24, 2014

  • monty m.

    can't make this, we're going to Death Valley!

    March 23, 2014

  • euclid

    Got called to work bummer

    March 21, 2014

  • Tina W.

    I might have a photography workshop in San Leandro on the same day. I'll make up my mind which one I'll go.

    February 8, 2014

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